[ Jill Gregory, a prime mover in a multitude of dreamwork
projects for many years and director of The Novato Center for Dreams, has a
special interest in children and dreaming and has agreed to allow us to reprint
here some of her work. I'm including this article not only for its usefulness,
guidance and its own sake, but also as an inspirational piece for all of us
interested in dream projects. -editor]
As a dreamworker and avid dreamer, I have long
felt committed to the idea of bringing dreams and dreaming skills to children.
When I reflect on what a difference it would have made to me in my life to have
had that wonderful resource accessible, I've wanted so much to offer that gift
to children. But I always assumed that a public school would never consider
permitting dreams in the classroom, so I focused my energies on opening the
dreamworld to my own two children and their friends who visited our home.
One day, however, I got a surprise, a surprise that led to my most delightful
dream project ever! While picking up my daughter, Shamrock at her elementary
school I was talking about dreams (as always) to her teacher, Pearl Hanchett.
Pearl is a very likable, skilled and dedicated teacher who is refreshingly
Pearl suggested that I share my knowledge of dreams with the class on an ongoing
basis. I hesitated, not believing that it would ever actually happen. But Pearl
persisted, encouraging and coaxing me until I agreed. Then she presented her
idea to Jill Rosenquist, the principal. Jill was open to it but wanted to hear
more, so she interviewed me about my approach to dreams and the materials that I
wanted to present.
As it turned out, this principal was acquainted with Jung's writings and was
a lucid dreamer herself! She gave the go-ahead after I agreed to three
conditions: 1) that she be allowed to sit in on the first few sessions, 2) that
I tape record everything in case of a parent complaint and 3) that I keep her
informed of what we were doing and how it was going.
Thus it evolved that I had the enormous pleasure of teaching dreamskills
every Friday for at least an hour from mid December, 1986 through mid June, 1987
to a class of 29 fourth graders in my daughter's public school classroom.
The first day was devoted to telling the children how I became a dreamworker
and what I actually do as Director of a Dream Center. Then I shared some of the
various unique projects of my dreamworker colleagues. Although this turned out
to be the least fascinating presentation, judging from the restlessness of the
kids, it did establish to the teacher and principal that I had substantial
background in dreams. To the students, it made the very important point that
dreams can be a career.
At the close of the presentation I read off a list of topics that I could
present to see what they were interested in. They were not interested in hearing
about groups and organizations or even about my experiences touring a sleep
laboratory. But they were interested in everything else, from common dream
themes to dreams in other cultures. And most of all, they were literally
desperate to share their own dreams, hear some of my dreams and get answers to
their questions about dreams.
It was hard for me to make them wait for their first real dream class in
order to conduct a survey, but I wanted very much to obtain a before and after
picture of their dreamlives. So, following an explanation about how the survey
was not a test, how it would help me to teach them better, and provide some
definition of terms, I left the room and Pearl distributed the surveys.
The nine questions survey was designed to indicate the students' perceptions
of their level of dreamskill development and to give me insight into three
important areas of their dreamlife: 1) how they felt about dreaming, 2) to whom
they told their dreams and 3) what they regarded as the basic themes of their
dreams. The students reported their estimations of how frequently each of six
dreamskills occurred in their own dreamlives.
Asking the students to finish the sentence, "Most of my dreams are
about..." found both girls and boys most frequently listing scary dreams or
nightmares. This included a range of negative and frightening images such as
storms, monsters, being chased by bad guys, people they love dying or themselves
dying, or being abandoned. Other categories mentioned but with few entries were
cars/bikes, parties, toys, playing or fun, events from their own past, present
and future, the ocean, and family members. None of the boys mentioned animals.
Eight girls mentioned friends and nine girls mentioned one or more animals. One
boy said his dreams were mostly of himself flying or trying to fly.
Mom or step-mom was chosen most frequently by children of both sexes as a
person to whom they would tell their dreams. No one mentioned neighbors, aunts,
uncles, teachers or cousins, One girl mentioned grandparents and three boys and
three girls mentioned dad or step-dad. One intriguing difference I noted was
that eight of the sixteen girls would share dreams with friends but only one of
the thirteen boys, I also noted that every girl had at least one person to whom
they could tell their dream but three boys said that they had no one. None of
the boys had more than two. Most had only one. For the girls, only three had one
person to tell. Most girls had tow people to tell. One girls had three and tow
girls had four.
I wondered about the connections between the girls' higher reported
dreamskill level and the fact that there were more people to whom they felt they
could tell their dreams. I also wondered about the connection between boys not
mentioning dreaming about their friends and boys not telling dreams to their
One finding that I was very happy to discover was that the students
overwhelmingly liked dreams, despite the frequency of nightmares. Seven said
dreams are good, Sixteen wrote that dreams are great and one girl went so far as
to state that dreams are fantastic! Two of the three neutral votes came from
non-recallers and only one boy felt that dreams were bad. I hoped that this boy
would feel better about dreams following the course. I also hoped that the
children would find more people to listen to their dreams.
The next session I shared the survey results. I could see the kids getting
curious about each others's dreamlives. i told them I was very happy to see that
they were so skilled as dreamers already. "We are really going to be able
to do a lot of fun things with dreams," I told them. "I can tell
One project, using magazines, was making collages of images from their
dreamlife, arranged on large pieces of construction paper. I would circle
through the class as they worked and ask them what their picture said. Then I
asked each child to add themselves to the picture and show me where. "How
do you feel being there?" I asked. If they liked it, I asked if there was
anything that they would like better and often they would add some missing
element, or move themselves to a more optimal location. If they didn't like how
they felt where they originally placed themselves, I asked them where they would
rather be. If they had trouble moving themselves I asked them what they needed
in order to be able to get where they wanted to be. Then they would draw in what
they needed, and move to the preferred spot. In finishing, I checked to make
sure that they did feel better in the new spot. No matter what our dream
activity, if it felt unpleasant or unfinished we would keep trying various
tactics until it felt better.
Although we drew picture of dream scenes, wrote little poems about the dreams
and did closed eye drawings of feelings (and their opposite) from dreams, by far
the most popular activity was dream drama. Sometimes, we all acted out one
character. Sometimes we watched as the dreamer acted out one or more of the
characters or scenes of his/her dream. Mostly, the dreamer selected who they
wanted to play each part and, upon the agreement of the actors, would direct the
complete production of their dream, playing whichever role they wanted.
(Jill also took photos from one day when she brought a giant costume box and
let the students briefly tell the dream and introduce themselves as the dream
character. One girl, Samantha, wore a long pointed hat...) She was being a large
bluebird who bosses her and clings to her in her dreams two to three times a
week. This had been going on for four years and the bird was becoming
increasingly negative, to the point of attacking Samantha. During the course, I
did re-entry and re-imagining dreamwork on a one-on-one basis for a few days
with each of the children who wanted to try it. Samantha found ways to get that
bird to sit and listen to her. She set some basic limits for the bird in terms
of what she was willing to do for it, and gradually came to a place where she
found another friend for the bluebird so it didn't come to her for all of its
needs. In fact, she even imaged wings for the bird which the bird told her was
what it needed most. Although the bluebird was still a frequent symbol in her
dreams, the be end of the course Samantha had a more positive relationship.
Sometimes the bluebird would fly away and she would miss it.
The wonderful thing about the approach of simply solving pictures and dream
situations and helping our dream characters -- a technique developed by Ann
Wiseman and Paula Phelan -- is that it works wonders for our lives without
anyone needing to know who that bluebird represents in her real life and her
dream life will improve without those correlations ever being drawn.
One of the students, a slim quiet girl named Tracy, had falling dreams once in a
while which frightened her very much. I had introduced the class to the idea
that when they were falling in a dream, they were actually flying but without a
sense of power. "Flying is a natural way of getting from one place to
another in the dream world," I explained. "When you are falling in a
dream, try to take charge of that fall and change it--even just a little bit.
Your could try to go a little faster or slower, think about something different
while you're falling or change the angle of you fall--anything to put out you
own power." I had also presented lucid dreaming as learnable and natural.
One day when I was walking to the school office before dream class, a couple
of my students ran up to me and exclaimed,"Wait 'till you hear the great
dream Tracy had! She already told us in sharing but made us promise not to tell
you. Oh, you're going to love her dream!" Here is Tracy's dream:
_I am climbing down a steep cliff like the ones we saw on our field trip. But
I slip! And I start to fall! I am really scared! Then I see Jill Gregory, my
dream teacher, sitting on a cloud. Jill says,"Look, what are you doing?
What are you doing?" Now I am not really scared any more because I know
that it's a dream and I can't really get hurt. So I just tell Jill that I am
falling. "Help me!" I yell. Jill says, "Just try to fly."
All of a sudden I have wings and I start soaring though the air. I soar all over
the sky. It is so neat!_
Well, Its easy to see why the kids knew that I would love that dream!
Hilary, who has a wonderful sense of humor, often dreamt of aquariums and
fish- -partly because fish were her pets. Hilary shared this dream the day I
presented dream dialogue techniques:
_One of my fish starts talking to me and tells me that my other fish, named
Charlie, is mad at me because he's not kept in the tank with the others. So I
saw the tank in half but then all of the other fish start dying. Charlie says to
me, "Don't worry. I'll just live under my bowl." But when he goes
under his bowl he gets squished. I pick him up and look closely. Since he's
squished, I can see inside him and to my surprise, although he's a boy, he's
When she dialogued with Charlie, the fish told her that he wanted her to love
him. In Hilary's visualization, Charlie swims around Hilary to show her his
grace and beauty. Hilary feels more love for Charlie as she appreciates his
I didn't hear any more about Charlie until the end of the year when the kids
filled out their surveys. Hilary inquired, "When you asked on the survey if
we thought that our dreams had helped us with our life, did you mean things like
me taking better care of my fish ever since I had that dream about Charlie
living under the bowl?" "Yes, that is exactly what I meant," I
This change was most clearly illustrated in the initial and final survey
reports of one boy in the class. In his initial survey he reported sometimes
recalling and understanding his dreams, but never experiencing any of the other
dream skills listed. In response to the sentence,"Most of my dreams are
about ____" he wrote, "My mom." He listed his mom as the only
person with whom he shared his dreams. On the scale of feelings about dreams the
children's feelings ranged from neutral to dreams are great except for this boy
who wrote that he thought that dreams were bad.
Six months later on his final dream survey all dreamskills except
understanding increased. To conclude the sentence "Most of my dreams are
about ____" he now wrote, "Happy days!" Who did he tell his
dreams to? His friends. And what did he think of dreaming? It's great!
Final Class Survey Results
In general the children reported slight increases in recall, incubation and
recording and slight decreases in lucidity and understanding. The ability to
alter imagery within the dream remained the same. Frightening dreams themes were
mentioned 50% less. sixty percent indicated that dreams helped them in their
life. Forty percent claimed that dreams helped them understand their classmates
better. Seventy percent stated that they intended to use what they learned about
dreams in the future. And a full 80% wrote that they were glad I came and taught
them dreaming and they would be happy to have me teach them dreaming nest year.
On this final survey I asked what was new in their dream life since the
course began. Dreams seemed more natural. New symbols appeared such as mermaids.
Dreams were more interesting and they realized they had other ways to deal with
monsters other than fleeing or killing.
The teacher, Mrs H. reported the following observations: Before I began my
dream class with her fourth graders, all but a couple of the boys seemed
inhibited from participation in front of the class in various activities. They
would sit back and criticize the girls who were the leaders of the class. As the
course progressed she noticed a shift. Many of these boys, because they were
allowed to act out their "macho" side with chase scenes or violent
scenes from dreams, began to participate more. That led to their
enthusiastically acting out a wider range of characters by the end of the class.
Mrs. H. saw this as a lessening of stereotyped behavior and inhibitions. The
process was so natural and gradual that the children didn't seem to notice it
On one occasion three boys competed to portray a female character. A couple
of boys actually donned feminine clothing to play female roles in dream dramas.
All the children expanded the types of roles that they felt comfortable
reenacting. Initially there was intense competition for the popular roles and a
disinclination to portray less desirable roles. There was a tendency to only
want roles that were a close match to oneself. Nobody wanted to be dead, old,
attacked, sick, ugly or have to do "gross things". By the end of the
class the important thing to the students was to participate in the drama
regardless of the role.
Mrs. H. observed, "Through these dream sessions my students became more
aware of their feelings and emotions in their dreams and in the real world. They
became better able to express their feelings appropriately. I noticed also that
their language skills and vocabulary skills increased. For example, their
writing and artwork reflected a greater variety and diversity of subjects and
styles than before these sessions. The students looked forward to Jill's visits
every Friday. She had a wonderful rapport with them."
Only a couple of parents commented on the class, both with positive feedback.
One of the parents wrote: "My daughter seemed to take right to the dream
symbolism class. Since then her personality and approach to life has improved so
much. I feel kids have an intuitive understanding of dream symbols and how to
use them. I see lucid dreaming as an excellent non-confrontational tool for the
child to use to solve little or big problems that they cannot always express to
Comments From Other Dreamworkers
Bob Trowbridge, a dreamworker from San Rafael with over a decade and a half
of experience and contact with hundreds of children from pre-school &K-12
had this to say: "One of the most interesting things for me in talking to
children about dreams was the "leveling" effect that this seemed to
have. Time after time teachers would tell me how surprised they were to see
certain children share their dreams, children who were normally shy and quiet or
disruptive. Apparently children intuitively recognize that their dreams are as
"good" or "interesting" as others' dreams or that their
ability to dream is on the same par as their classmates. The other thing that
stood out was the excitement and eagerness the younger children showed in
finding an adult interested in hearing their dreams."
Another dreamworker who has many years' experience in this area is Valerie
Melusky of New Jersey. In a phone conversation with me she stated that she
always found students eager to share their dreams; curious, excited and paying
rapt attention to the presentation. "What I enjoy the most," she said,
"is helping the students discover that they do not have to remain powerless
in their dreams."
Suggestions For Parents
We protect our children from physical world dangers and traumas of even minor
impact but abandon them to horrific repeated traumas in their dream world. This
is not due to malice, but rather to ignorance. I would encourage parents to pay
more attention to and validate their children's dreams and share appropriate
dreams of their own with their children. Such sharing will strengthen the family
bond and increase the general level of personal sharing in the family.
Suggestions For Teachers
I encourage teachers, whether or not they are knowledgeable about dreams, to
bring dreams into the classroom. Introducing the topic of dreams is important
because you are validating a large portion of the children's lives that may not
be validated anywhere else. Let them know that dreams are a welcome subject in
Encourage them to include dreams in their sharing time. When having the kids
practice language skills such as sentence construction, grammar, spelling,
paragraph formation, etc, have them use a paragraph from a dream as a basis for
the exercise. The teacher will find that the kids are much more interested in
the sharing or language skills exercises when their dreams are the subject.
Tips For Dreamworkers
Dreamworkers who bring dreamskills and resources to children are serving
humanity in a very important role that is as yet little known or acknowledged. I
encourage dreamworkers to include children among their "clients" even
if it means volunteer service. Dreamworkers should feel out teaches and groups
or organizations for kids because there may be golden opportunities, openness
and support where you do not expect it.
I would like to offer some tips for those of you who may be contemplating or
bringing dreams into the classroom. Most importantly, the more involved a child
is in the dream activity, the more they enjoy it and benefit from it. It is
better to keep if brief and get them actually doing something with their dreams.
Another tip is to be sure to present dreams in a way that is inclusive of
children with little or not dream recall. I handled this by facilitating a
conscious dreaming experience, one on one, for those with no recall. By not
teaching the same thing to the rest of the class until later, these non-recallers
now had their own expertise and other kids were curious about their experiences.
Also it gave them material to work with using all of the dreamwork methods I
presented. In at least one case conscious dreaming was a positive and empowering
experience (a boy found a tranquilizer gun to use to subdue his monsters) which
opened up sleeping dream recall.
Other ways of accessing dream material is to ask children what dreams they
think they're having but forgetting; dreams they would like to have; dreams they
have been told by someone else; or dreams from literature.
Your can help make it safe for them to share dreams if you share from your
own dreamlife--your wonderful dreams as well as your scary, unpleasant ones. It
is important to be flexible enough with your time and attention to be able to
stay with powerful negative scenes. Don't leave the kids hanging! Stick with it
until there is an improvement in the imagery.
In a dream drawing exercise, for example, a child drew monsters with big
teeth pursuing him and planes shooting at him from overhead. All of his friends
had been killed. He was inside the earth with volcanos burning his feet as he
ran and ahead of him were bad guys with knives, What we did was add pieces of
paper and he drew what happened as the dream progressed. Finally he added some
cool water to soothe his burned feet. Them he deepened the water and pictured
himself swimming away from the monsters and bad guys who apparently didn't know
how to swim. The planes lost interest and went away. He found safety standing on
an island. Then we stopped drawing and imaging. He had not reached final
resolution but was now in a more positive situation.
Another suggestion is to allow mystery. Don't feel that you need to know all
of the answers. They will ask if something is true or possible and do you know
if that's what happened to them. Allow that mystery. Present an open- minded
viewpoint that includes different levels of understanding and different
interpretations of experience. This will help you avoid the pitfall of
invalidating a student's experience or their own understanding of it without
needing to present or defend any particular position. You don't want to limit
their own openness to exploring their won dreaming with a pronouncement no
counter balanced by other viewpoints.
Focus on changing dream scenes and actions in a positive direction rater than
trying to get at the waking life correlations and issues since this is not
appropriate in a classroom setting. It may cause problems with parents and
education authorities as well as making the child more vulnerable to
self-revelations which may cause regrets later. This is more appropriate to
family counseling or individual child psychotherapy.
Pay special attention to protecting the privacy of each student during the
writing or drawing dreams. Do not permit teasing or mocking of their dreams or
dreamwork by other children. If possible, seat them far enough apart so that
each can have their own private space. Kids can be awfully cruel and one
disaster can shut down a whole lot of sharing.
Finally, be positive, value each dream, be fair, patient, enthusiastic and
high energy. You set the tone. You create the space for their sharing. And these
attributes maximize the potential for the course to bring good things to the
class as a whole. One of the techniques that helped shape my role with the class
was to follow the 1 to 1 1/2 hours of dreams with leading them in singing.
Sometimes we sang acapella, sometimes with guitar or piano accompaniment. It
always would balance out the energy, unify the group and add another dimension
to our connection. I became a source of new and funny songs and it was nice to
end dream presentations with music.
Three suggestions from the students that I would like to pass along are
first, to keep a file in the classroom of the dreams that they are willing to
share, that all can browse through or add to at any time. A second suggestion
was to weave a new story or dream which incorporates portions of many dreams
(including conscious dreams). Finally, they wanted me to be available to
participate in their dream dramas.
These suggestions show a level of interest and awareness which is quite high.
I was continually surprised and elated at the sophistication of their dreams,
One boy reported that he had his first "quadruple" dream. He reported
seeing four vertically stacked bunkbeds, with a different family member sleeping
on each bed. Coming out of each person's head was a cartoon-like
"balloon" containing that person's dream. Each of these four dreams
were completely different and he watched them all transpiring simultaneously.
What good things are in store for students in a dream class? Mrs H.(the
teacher) asserts, "...dream techniques enabled my students to better
understand themselves, to have a sense of power over their won lives, to be
creative and to cope with or find solutions to problems in the real world."
As of this writing (1988) some nine months after the end of the class, Mrs H.
is continuing, on her own, to include dreams in her classroom teaching. My
daughter, Shamrock, has become the local kid authority on dreams, She often
helps others with their dreams, sometimes on her own and occasionally by
relaying information or feedback from me. Some of the children still get
together at recesses and do dream sharing even thought they are now spread out
in three different fifth grade classes. As for me, I have been invited to do and
in-service training for interested teachers at Lu Sutton school.
The way I see it, bringing dreams to kids is helping them reclaim their
birthright, just as it is for all of us. I would like to class with a recent
experience from my own family which illustrates the value of helping children
develop their own dream skills.
My daughter Shamrock told me a dream which involved a mother putting dirty
diapers back on her three children instead of using clean diapers from the box
of "Luv" disposable diapers that she had with her in the living room.
Shamrock said to me, "I think I know what this dream is telling me. I've
been getting mad at my little sister a lot more than I used to. That's because
I'm mad at her for a lot of things that she's done and that bug me. I need to
change and show her my love in a cleaner way. I need to forgive her for just
being a little kid and doing things she's not supposed to do. [And] I think this
dream is also telling you and daddy the same thing about how you treat me and my
sister lately. When you come to tell us something we're doing wrong don't remind
us of the times we did it before. Its just like putting dirty diapers on a baby.
Show us your 'luv' in a clean way."
When I related this to my husband he surprised me by saying that he had
noticed the same thing and was getting ready to talk to me about it. The power
and simplicity of the imagery of the clean and dirty diapers proved helpful to
my husband and me in changing how we approached our children when they did
Shamrock's foundation in dreams and dreamwork enabled her to serve our family
in a timely, non-threatening and profound way. Bringing dreams and dreamwork to
kids increases their social and academic skills as well as life skills in a way
that benefits the child, the family, the school and the community.
Jill Gregory can be contacted at the following address:
Novato Center for Dreams PO BOX 5879, Novato, CA, 94948
(Special thanks also to the Dream Network Journal, in which this article
originally appeared - See Dream Network Volume 7 No. 2&3, 1987)